Reykjavik,Iceland

IMG_5968.jpgI used to fly over Iceland every summer on my way to and from Canada. I remember watching it through the clouds from 32,000 feet in the air, thinking how can anyone possibly live there? My intrigue grew with every passing summer until November 2016 when my boyfriend and I shoved layers upon layers of clothing into our tiny carry on’s and headed to the land of ice and fire (commonly known as Iceland but my boyfriend happens to be a huge Game of Thrones fan – I’ve never seen it, don’t hate me)

First off, lets get real. Iceland is expensive. To go there and do everything you would like to do you need a savings account for your savings account. We managed to do it on a budget but regretfully had to be a bit choosey with what we spent our money on, so my first tip for the ultimate Icelandic experience is make sure you have some cash in the bank.

We went the millennial route and rented an Airbnb. It was spacious, in a great location, allowed us to stock up on coffee, tea and weetos (one box of these pushed £7, see what I mean) and was significantly cheaper than any half decent hotel we could find.

We toasted our first night at an incredible restaurant called The Grillmarket (http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/) where we tried whale, puffin and lobster burgers, ordered a chocolate ball dessert that melted away when hot caramel sauce was poured over it and blew a third of our trip budget, but oh my god, it was worth it.

Day two was spent walking the streets of Reykjavik in the snow, climbing the Hallgrimskirkja and awing at the mountains. Almost every street was decorated with Christmas lights and graffiti, a strange but beautiful combination of tradition and expression. We finished the day at the famous penis museum, but that’s a story for another time and another blog.

Day three we took to the national parks, the active landscape and the rolling waterfalls. Okay, we did a bus tour, which we were both hesitant to throw our money at, fearing we’d be the youngest by 30 years, shuffled around, spoken to and rushed. It was unforgettable.

We stood where two looming tectonic plates met, watched the earth’s surface violently erupt with fiery water and felt the frozen mist from the Gullfloss waterfall sting our faces.. all in a day’s work. Tip two, do a tour. Or rent a car and explore. Just get out of Reykjavik, okay? There is SO much more of Iceland to see.

Day four we relaxed. And by relaxed, I mean we spent five hours in 40 degree water, surrounded by mountains, swim up bars and buckets of cleansing face masks. The blue lagoon was absolute luxury and the most perfect ending to a short getaway. We even did a douche-y live Facebook video to show off to our friends and family.

Final tip? Just go.

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French Onion Soup

I’ve moved out! I am officially living and working in London and boy, it feels good. But it also puts me to the ultimate test. Eating well is easy when you live with a health teacher who restocks the fridge every weekend with new and exciting vegetables (omg did I just call vegetables exciting) and has every single kitchen appliance you could ever want and need. Now that I’m fending fully for myself I could easily fall back into my student ways. If you don’t hear from me, you’ll find me underneath that pile of empty pizza boxes in my bedroom. Luckily, I fell into a few habits while living at home, two of which are dish of the week and soup of the week. Dish of the week is whatever you decide to cook mountains of on Sunday afternoon so that you don’t have to cook every night when you get home from work and soup of the week is the big batch of soup you make at the start of the week to take in to work for lunches, a decision that has proved beneficial for both my waist and my wallet. Today’s recipe is a soup that is both filling and flavourful, and unlike some soups, it doesn’t take hours to throw together, I give you French Onion Soup.

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French Onion Soup

What you’ll need:

6 large onions

50g butter

a table spoon of brown sugar

4 beef stock cubes

4 pints of boiling water

French bread

Gruyere

How you do it:

1. Peel your onions and cut them in half, then thinly slice them so that they can easily break apart in the pot. In a large pot, melt your butter. Once the butter is completely melted, throw in all of the onions. Give them a good stir and then put the lid on the pot and let them sweat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the brown sugar, give them another stir and let them sweat for a further five minutes.

3. Throw in the beef stock and boiling water and let the whole pot simmer while you pre heat your grill to 200c.

4. Put a small piece of gruyere cheese on a slice of French bread and stick it under the grill until the cheese has just melted, this won’t take more than a minute so keep an eye on it!

5. Give yourself a big portion of soup and pop the French bread straight in the centre so that it floats on top, enjoy!

Almond and Raspberry Spongecake

You know when you’ve gone like two days of eating really healthy and then you start getting all cocky about it? You start pretending you actually think mixed nuts are a delicious and fulfilling afternoon snack, you take the stairs at work and you go around handing out fitness and diet advice like you’re Ronda Rousey. Yeah, that was me all week. Determined to continue this new lifestyle choice into the weekend, I had a poached egg, spinach, and pulled pork on ONE piece of wholewheat toast for dinner, after which I went back in to the kitchen and made the exact same meal again. You heard that right, I had two dinners. Turns out, I’m more of a spaghetti than a courgetti kinda girl.

But today’s bake helped me discover that sometimes, choosing the healthier option actually pays off. I have made an almond and raspberry spongecake, light, flavourful and wait for it, I used less than half of the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. Cutting the sugar really brought out the tartness of the raspberries, giving the cake a real combination of sweet and sour, and taking away some of the guilt of stuffing my face with cake after three whole days of disciplined eating. Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too!

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Almond and Raspberry Spongecake

What you’ll need:

 175g softened unsalted butter

50g caster sugar

100g ground almonds

175g self raising flour

3 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of almond extract

The grated zest of one lemon

A punnet of fresh raspberries

A handful of flaked almonds

How you do it:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C (320F, gas 3).

2. Grease a cake tin with butter, I like to use the tins which have a removable bottom, it makes it easier to transfer the cake to a plate once it is baked.

3. Mix the butter, sugar, ground almonds, flour, eggs, almond extract, vanilla extract and lemon zest in a large bowl and thoroughly combine with either a stand mixer or a hand mixer until you have a smooth cake batter.

4. Gently fold in the fresh raspberries so that they are spread evenly throughout the mix.

5. Pour the batter into your cake tin and sprinkle the top with flaked almonds.

6. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes and enjoy!

Sweet and Sticky Cinnamon Buns

I remember baking cinnamon buns for a school project when I was younger. Mom and I spent a good part of the sunday making the dough, watching it rise, rolling it out, throwing around flour etc. As they’re a bit of a labour of love, we ended up running out of time and subsequently, let the final rise happen overnight. I don’t remember this next part but my mom always reminds me that she had to set her alarm for 4:30am to put them in the oven so that they would be fresh and warm when I took them in to school. How good are moms. I do, however, remember the smell travelling up to my room and stunning me awake, after which I followed it downstairs, did the ever important “poisonous test” and guarded the rest of the batch from my hungry older brother. If only every morning could be that sweet.

Fast forward 10 years and I can safely say that I am not a morning person anymore. In fact, there was a short time in my life (okay it lasted three years) when I barely saw a morning. At university, I would awake from my slumber between 12 and 1, step over the remnants of what ever take-away I’d bought the night before and begin to piece my degree back together. Alright, that’s an exaggeration but you get the idea.

What I’m trying to get at is that I think cinnamon buns were invented for people like me. If you can take a page from my mothers book and bake them first thing in the morning, I guarantee you that the smell alone will get even the most hungover students shuffling their way to the kitchen

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Sweet and sticky cinnamon buns

What you’ll need:

1 baking sheet, lined with baking paper

For the dough:

425g strong white bread flour

1 x 7g sachet easy-blend dried yeasta

50g light brown muscovado sugar

3g fine sea salt

8 cardamom pods

about 225ml lukewarm milk

1 medium egg, at room temperature

75g slightly salted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

For the filling:

100g slightly salted butter, softened

75g light brown muscovado sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the topping:

50g walnut pièce, chopper finely

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

2 table spoons maple syrup

How you do it:

1. Put the flour and yeast into a mixing bowl and combine with your hand. Add the sugar and salt and mix in. Roughly crush the cardamom pods and remove the seeds, then finely grind the seeds or crush in a pestle and mortar. Mis them into the flour. Make a well in the centre.

2. Beat the milk with the egg using a fork and put the mixture into the well. Gradually work the flour mixture into the liquid with your hand to make a very soft dough. Add a bit more milk if the dough feels too dry or if there are dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl. Add the butter and work into the dough – it will feel soft and slightly sticky.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very thoroughly for 10 minutes. The dough should firm up as it is stretch and worked. Shape the tough into a ball and return to the bowl. Leave to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in size.

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4. Punch down the risen dough with your knuckles to deflate, then turn it out on to the lightly flour worktop and knead it gently for a few seconds to form a neat smooth ball. Cover with the upturned bowl and leave to relax for 5 minutes while you make the filling.

5. Put the softened butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth and thoroughly combined. The filling should have a spreadable consistency.

6. Uncover the dough and roll it out with a floured rolling pin to a near 28 x 38cm rectangle. Spread the filling evening over the dough using a palette knife. Starting at a long edge, roll it up fairly tight, like a swiss roll, and pinch the seam together firmly to seal. Using a floured late, sharp knife, cut the roll across into 9 thick slices.

7. Arrange the slices cut-side down in 3 rows of 3 on the lined baking sheet, spacing the slices about 1.5 cm apart (they will spread and join up during baking). Cover the slices very lightly with cling film and leave to rise on the worktop for 40-50 minutes until they have almost doubled in size.

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8. Towards the end of the riding time, heat your over to 190C (375F, gas 5), and make the topping by mixing the chopped walnuts with the Demerara sugar.

9. Remove the cling film and sprinkle some of the topping over each bun. Drizzle with maple syrup, and bake in the heated oven for about 25 minutes until they are a good golden brown. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and leave to cool a bit before pulling apart. Enjoy!

Honey and Vanilla Madeleines

In an effort to counteract the habit of devouring every meal I eat like it’s the last one I’ll have, I’ve started a foodstagram (food + instagram, clever) and a blog. I’ve always loved cooking and baking. I grew up in a household full of obscure organic vegetables, hummus and multigrain bread. I was that kid at uni who spent all of their first term student loan at Marks and Spencer’s because they’d grown up believing that saffron should be a household cupboard staple.

You’ll be happy to know that by the end of my degree I was heading straight for the Sainsbury’s basics aisle (can we have a moment for 15p packs of bourbons) and buying dried pasta by the kilo. I would literally thank the heavenly lord above when Morrison’s ready meals were reduced down to £1.52 and then hand over a £20 at 3AM for an extra large, meats of the world, pizza. Tragic.

Now that I am a fully fledged adult, I’ve had the time and the free fresh ingredients (thanks mum) to not only rekindle the old love of cooking/baking but even learn a new thing or two.. apparently you can learn things after university, who knew. I’m training myself to slow down, to enjoy.  This foodstagram/blog is about finding my cooking feet again, and I am excited to share part of that journey with you.

So here is my first recipe, a simple yet delicious French sponge cake which will both impress your friends and line your stomach before a night out, win win.

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Honey and Vanilla Madeleines

What you’ll need:

– 125g butter
– 100g icing sugar
– 40g ground almonds
– 40g all purpose flour
– A pinch of salt
– 3 large egg whites
– 2 teaspoons of honey
– The grated zest of two lemons
– 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
– 1 madeleine pan, these can be found on amazon for less than a fiver, so really you have no excuse.

How you do it:

Heat the oven to 170C (325F, gas 3). Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until golden brown. This is called beurre noisette, it’s something I learned from one of my fancy french cook books. You want the butter to sizzle for a bit so that it starts to give off a nutty aroma. Once it’s the right colour, take it off the heat and leave to cool.

Sift the sugar, almonds, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg whites, honey, lemon zest and vanilla and then slowly add the cooled beurre noisette.

Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes, this will help the madeleines to receive the right texture when you bake.

After 30 minutes, spoon the mixture into the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool completely and enjoy!

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